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Ah, to start the day with a real coffee – indispensable motivation when the alarm goes off. The promise of it is the only thing that will get me out of bed, help me find my way to the kitchen in a half sleep, still not entirely differentiating dreams from reality. The first coffee is the one that matters most to me: it will decide of my mood for the morning. Espresso? Lungo? Cappuccino? Something extravagant to sweeten the marathon ahead?
If you survive on instant coffee at home but never resist a stop at Costa or the likes, revolutionise your routine and get yourself a Nescafe Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine. I fell for its beautiful curves and the shape reminds me of Charley Harper, design, rigolo, touchant.
If like me you have no patience to install things, it’s perfect. Click Clack, out of the box, a few movement, a couple of minutes and it’s ready to pour. Brilliant. This comes with a selection of capsules for you to try straight away. Open the drawer at the front, close, switch the handle to the left or right depending on whether you want hot or cold (iced coffee, my friends!) and stop it when your mug is filled to your taste. Easy, smooth, quick.
I loved… pretending to be a barrista when I actually have never mastered that skill. Getting milk to the perfect frothiness is an art. I fail each time. But this machine, you see, does it for me and that makes me smile as soon as I switch it on. Fancy a fab latte? It comes in two capsules. Fist pour the white for milk, then the black for coffee. Invest in transparent cups – so worth the show, the coffee creating beautiful layers that do stay suspended a few minutes, even if you walk back to the table.
Even better – this is not just about coffee. Velvety hot chocolate (mocha, choco-caramel, chocochino), tea (a superb chai latte, a Marrakesh mint one) and even guilt-free lattes (unsweetened or skinny). All available in your supermarket or online – no running around.
Great variety and quality, super simple to use and clean. Green bonus point: it switches itself off after being unused a while. Be warned – more friends will suddenly stop by to say hi…
Wondering what to do in London this week-end? Well, how about you start with a treat: Poppy& Sebastian have just opened on Kingly street. An, oh my, aren’t their cakes beautiful, as gorgeous as in any haute-pâtisserie in Paris. That is just what you need when reaching a Friday evening. 10 more London ideas below!
1. Wow – Krug champagne opens a divine and luxurious pop-up crêperie in Covent Garden.
2. Pub or ice-skating? You can both at the same time at the Leather Bottle.
3. Be crazy this Saturday and join The Outdoor Swimming Society for a tonic swim in a London lido. With a brass providing the background music.
4. To better enjoy winter, here are 10 hot and mulled cocktails to go and try in London.
5. Hurray! God’s own junkyard, a paradise lit in neons, reopens this week-end.
6. When china becomes a work of art… – have a look at these delicate objects made of porcelain in this exhibition. The vintage style cameras are striking.
7. Enjoy a free concert in the Spitafields Music Winter Festival.
8. A vos appareils photos! Get your camera ready – the Santa Race is back on Saturday.
9. That’s art, baby – make a detour to see this upside down house.
10. Fancy a Sunday roast? Try this mouth-watering pop-up, Holly Roast - they even do duck!
Christmas is on the way. Amazing inverse ratio between the diminishing number of chocolates in the Advent Calendar but the increasing number of lines on the wishlist to Santa. Why not, this year, cut down on the number of toys which are sure to be left aside in a couple of months? Why not, for once, replace objects by memories, a day out, a family time?
If, like me, you have a little girl who lights up at the word Disney and knows exactly where her tiara is, follow my advice. Under the tree, leave an envelope with tickets for Dare to Dream, the new Disney on ice show at the O2. Princess Tanya and Prince Naveen will take you to New Orleans for a musical adventure, Snow White will tell you her story with the seven dwarves. Rapunzel will, for the very first time, put her skates one – imagine what it will be like with her hair! Even Cinderella will add her magic.
This was no easy task to put together either. It takes 12 hours to make that stage. No less than 40 performers, meaning 178 costumes on which have been sewn more than 250,000 Svarowski rhinestones. A sparkling time guaranteed.
And for a child, how marvellous to see her heroines in the flesh and not just flat on a TV screen, to discover them in a new setting, new stories. And for parents, such joy in seeing the kids enthralled, radiant with pure happiness. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Dare to Dream celebrates 75 years of Disney princess stories. The show will stop at the O2 between December 27, 2013 and January 05, 2014 offering a perfect day out for families.
We even have 2 tickets for you to win for Dare to Dream (date to be chosen based on your preferences and availability). How lucky, you cannot not give it a try… How to play?
2. Answer the following question in the comments below: Who are the two Disney modern-day princesses? (Hint: click here!)
We sent our Special Reporter Gavin Sandison travel in time and fight zombies under Waterloo…
“Come on, there must be a way out of here!” shouts the overexcited American soldier as we, along with eight other wide-eyed and slightly bemused participants start tearing apart our small ‘bomb shelter’. We find ourselves desperately trying to imagine being in the midst of the Blitz, with low rumbles of planes and bombing emanating from concealed speakers. Just minutes ago we were enjoying tea and cakes, wondering what the Zombie Blitz experience had in store for us.
Quite a lot, actually. Soon we were crawling through inky darkness, thrust into a tale of manic proportions involving a cackling Nazi scientist, fearsome SS men and, of course, ZOMBIES! At each stage we were encouraged to be part of the unfolding story and take the initiative while being carefully guided by the two actors in our midst, reminiscent of a computer game adventure.
What an exciting way to explore the dank underbelly of Waterloo Station! Such a foreboding ambiance, lending to a pervading sense of doom: “What’s next?”, “When are we going to meet the first zombies??”. The ever-present fear factor was balanced by constant excitement and camaraderie, keeping the experience exhilarating yet safely below the level of sheer terror – yelling out “Ahhhh!!” several times seemingly in good humour (but, must admit, pretty much involuntarily). A sudden blood-curdling shriek, startling sight, blood-spattered undead advancing… and then the lights go out. Oooh dear…!
With roughly a dozen sets to experience during the two hour session we were often moving fast. Some inspired creativity culminated in unforgettable scenes, ensuring we felt like participants rather than spectators – even if the SS henchmen had to turn the occasional blind eye while we clambered out of sight. Oh, there were zombies, lots of zombies! Don’t worry though, they don’t actually bite, hopefully they feed them well before each session just in case… The adventure culminated in a mad dash for our lives through the dank cellars and corridors, somehow just escaping their grasp, always looking over one’s shoulder and expecting a gristly surprise around the next corner.
And the finale… Suffice to say, it was an explosive finish! We emerged into the graffiti tunnel full of adrenaline and smelling of cordite. Hand shakes all round – the actors had done a splendid job. A fantastic initiation to the young genre of ‘immersive theatre’. Can’t get enough zombies? For a more combative experience… Zombie Battle London! In a Greenwich nuclear bunker no less!
Zombie Blitz 1940 experience
Reservation only. £65 per person, minimum age 13
Quick! It’s a limited edition experience, don’t miss out!
After all, why should the chocolate Advent Calendars only be for children? Don’t we deserve it too? After all, who is going to do that Christmas shopping, wrapping and cooking, mmmh? This is my seasonal call: Let’s replace the morning vitamins with a treat. It’s good for us, energy for the day and guaranteed to make us smile. Lindt has created a dark chocolate version, more refined, more intense. In its elegant packaging lit with golden touches are the usual 24 windows, each hiding a suprise sweet from the Swiss Maître Chocolatier. I did not resist very long before opening a few to get a glimpse of the pleasures awaiting: Cherry chilli or orange Lindor, 60% coffee Lindor truffles, 70% and 85% Excellence mini slabs, dark crispy fondant stick and of course chocolate Santas… I wonder – how long do you think you will be able to resist after the alarm clock goes off?
Stag parties – c’est ainsi qu’on appelle en anglais les enterrements de vie de garçon. Quelle preuve de confiance que d’être nommé témoin à un mariage… et quelle responsabilité aussi. Le jour même, vous serez au rendez-vous, les détails des célébrations auront été méticuleusement plannifiés, vous n’aurez qu’à suivre le mouvement, profiter, immortaliser l’instant par des centaines de photos.
Mais dans un premier temps, c’est à vous de jouer, d’organiser une soirée mémorableavant que l’ami ne se lance dans cette nouvelle aventure. La liste d’invités est simple, les amis les plus proches, vous les connaissez déjà. Coups de fil, mails. Certains ont des idées, d’autres ne préfèrent connaître que l’itinéraire final, ils “vous font confiance quant aux détails”. A partir des quelques projets qui se dessinent, vous appelez restaurants, bars, théatre, hôtels histoire d’évaluer un budget. Vous relayez, relancez… Et le temps file. Vous travaillez, vous avez parfois déjà des enfants et bien que le coeur y soit, la réalité est un peu plus dure à gérer que prévu. Vous souhaitiez un moment drôle, unique, différent… mais tic-tac, tic-tac, la pression monte, vous n’avancez pas.
Pourquoi ne pas vous simplifier la vie? STAG vous offres ses 10 années d’expérience dans le domaine. Il vous suffit, en quelques clics, de sélectionner une destination puis, pour chacune, les activités de votre choix. Apéro flottant, karting, oenologie, accrobranche et bien d’autres! Votre travail s’arrête là – le site coordonnera les réservations selon vos souhaits. Tranquillité d’esprit et gain de temps assuré pour un enterrement de vie de garçon exceptionnel.
Et les filles, me diraient-vous? Rassurez-vous, le site les propose également…
Fed up with Christmas shopping already? Come on, follow us, we have 10 super ideas to enjoy the week-end in London. And as pop-up cinemas are so trendy, the Barbican is joining in. Get yourself a ticket for this superb Hichcock classic, Rebecca, screened in the very atmospheric Leytonstone School. Later in December, keep an eye on The Nomad Cinema for seasonal nuggets!
1. Kew Gardens has put on its festive lights – such a lovely occasion for a magical walk.
2. On Friday evening, late at the V&A plays with adornment.
3. Did you know the National Gallery has a new monopoly? It’s fantastic. Instead of buying streets, you can get yourself works of art.
4. Berwick Street opens the first edition of their Christmas market - lots of super-delicious seasonal and festive products. Quick, grab a shopping basket!
5. Au goûter, on se régale de tartines et de confitures inspirées de la célèbre vodka. Grey Goose opens a pop-up bakery – tartines and jam inspired by the famous vodka.
6. Just imagine you’ve been skiing and relax at the Skylodge, a seasonal bar. Cocktails, movies and campfires will warm you up!
7. Or raise a pint at this super cool pop-up bar dedicated to craft beer.
8. Why not try a seafood version of the Sunday lunch?
9. Looking for a unique dress for the Christmas party? Shop vintage at Frock Me on Sunday.
10. Just for a smile… Stop at Selfridges and go hunting for their new vending machine. A champagne one, what else?
I had looked at the Best Western Hotel Riviera website before going to Nice. Yet I had not realised how many advantages it would offer, how practical it would prove.
How ideally placed it is, by example. Right in the station street if you are coming by train but also so very close to the bus stop for the airport. Such a peace of mind, for once, not to have to wander through streets with a suitcase and a map, trying to find your hotel! If like me your flight back is super-early, you will be even more grateful to get those extra minutes of sleep. As for discovering the city, it is perfect – you will be on the Promenade des Anglais in 15mn walk, straight line, no way you can get lost.
And then, there is the welcome. From the moment I left my suitcase at the reception to the check out, I was always greeted with a formidable, sincere kindness, no matter who I talked too. We chatted about the town, the weather happily while the paperwork was being done. It sounds simple, it probably how it should always be and it makes you go to the lift with a smile on. I was even given a refreshing drink on arrival, proposed to add my postcards to their mail if I was short for time to find a letterbox. It makes all the difference in the world.
This Boutique Hotel counts 48 rooms with a modern, sober decoration. Mine was playing with white, golden wood and a cheerful chestnut – down to a slightly shimmering stool. The curtains were doubled with a veiled one, filtering the morning light nicely. The bed calls for laziness, comfortable mattress, crisp sheets – you have been warned. On the side the working space has been well thought of: just the right size to be at ease with a laptop. Wifi is free and you will even find a kettle and instant coffee and tea. Again, that last detail should be a norm but often lacks in French hotels! I watched the sun rise on the hill, the rays making the luxurious flats glitter in the background with a steaming cup in hand.
Having to leave at dawn, I was most grateful to the staff for letting me have a cappuccino while they were just starting to put the breakfast counter in place, baskets of pains au chocolat, cheese, charcuterie… The Riviera also has a special thought for their guests – a pack lunch to take away when you check out with a sandwich, crisps, a drink and fruit. I have never encountered this anywhere else but it does make your journey back much nicer if you are going to jump on your low cost plane without time to buy anything to eat.
An excellent choice – 3* hotel comfort for sure but most importantly, a place that will make your life easier. And that, my friends, is priceless.
BEST WESTERN Hotel Riviera Nice
27 avenue Thiers
If you are a chocolate lover, you know its complex refinements and its diversions.
The comfort chocolate – bought suddenly, for support, the sugar rush, have to finish this file, get through the day, just a little bit more.
Then there are the sharing chocolates – usually in a colourful box, more fun, goes with laughs, colleagues, friends.
Some will prefer tablettes, this very special square that goes so well with a coffee.
My heart goes to decadent chocolate. Those that surprise, overwhelm, almost make you purr in delight. I fell for the Booja-Booja truffles. Totally. Voluptuously. It had been a while since I had been that wowed.
Imagine the silky texture of a just-made ganache. Can you taste the creaminess, the lightness, these notes of red berries? The powdery finish of cacao dust?
Such an intensity, such power. they look so innocent in their gorgeous box. A bite and they take you over. In the selection N 2, the flavours are extraordinary. Almond-caramel, hazelnut, crunchy, like a crunchy gianduja reminding me of Turin. Banoffee, tender banana fusing with the caramel, almost a dessert. Rhubarb and vanilla fool, tangy, sunny. Handmade in Norfolk by an artisan who has 57 rewards for his work, and even better organic, well they are simply twice as good as the very best you have ever tried…
Booja-Booja – organic chocolate truffles
Organic, dairy, gluten & soya free
Find them in all good delicatessens, independent healthfood shops, fine food halls and Selfridges, Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Ocado.com
Ready for a week-end in London? It might be icy but do go to Syon House – the gardens are going to be so beautifully lit it will feel like a walk through a fairy tale… fantastic with friends or kids. More idea for the week-end of November 22, 23 and 24 below!
1. The Royal Academy also offers late evenings, did you know? This Friday it will redefine your conception of sculpture. Oh, there will be DJs and workshops too, of course.
2. On Saturday, join The Londonist team for a super Thames pub crawl.
3. Have a look at the giant snow globe in Covent Garden and its London skyline made of Lego.
4. 100 artists present their vision of London in format 10 x 10. Some really beautiful pieces and the show is free.
5. The Tate, now revamped, throws a housewarming party on Saturday. Workshops, music, films…
6. Still on the cultural side, do not miss Turner and the sea at the National Maritime Museum. Such light in the contemplation of waves, storms, shipwrecks!
7. The famous Jim Beam Bourbon opens a pop up at the Old Truman Brewery, reinventing its Kentucky home there.
8. Just for the smile, have a look at the… Rock, Paper, Scissors championship. Yes, it does exist.
9. On Sunday, discover the Car Boot Disco at Ministry of Sound. What’s the concept? You bring a few clothes, learn to customise them with Fashion Designers and you dance.
10. Love French food? Rejoyce, Maille and its savoury mustards and mayonnaises has just opened on Piccadilly. Amazing flavours in elegant packaging – this should sort out a few Christmas presents…